Monthly Archives: December 2010

It’s the time of year for deathless nostalgia again, because unless you’re stuck in a yurt in Mongolia (in which case you’re not reading this blog, but I hedge my bets!), you know it’s the end of one year, and the virgin, untouched beginning of a new one, filled with hopes, dreams and possibilities that may or may not happen. On the other hand, hope springs eternal, tomorrow is another year, and nothing will ever happen the way you expect it!

The year 2010 was a strange one, strange in the real world of Big Decisions and increasing issues with severe weather and its consequences worldwide, strange in the world of music because of all the gaping lacunae left behind by those we lost, and strange in my personal sphere, mostly for good, somewhat for bad, but not so bad I can’t stand it!

Below follows my entirely idiosyncratic, tunnel-visioned view of All I Left Behind. What I loved in 2010, what I loathed, what I embraced and rejected and a few things I will never, ever understand so long as I live.

The Good:
Music-wise, I’m getting jaded. So jaded, it takes a major sonic blast that registers on the Richter Scale before I get up and flip out my enthusiasms and Air Guitar In Ratty Underwear. Having said that, there were a few that ended up on deathless repeat on my iTunes playlists.

I know I’m getting old. I know I’m getting old when I find it increasingly hard not to gravitate toward the old pros who know precisely what they’re doing, exactly how to do it, and still manage to be relevant, still blowing my mind to this day. There really isn’t a lot on the younger end of the musical scale I can get riled up about, and what’s far worse – I don’t care any more! I shall henceforth be doomed to eternal unhipness. Deal with it.

Best Ballad Of The Year:
Grinderman, “The Palaces of Montezuma”, from Grinderman 2
When it comes to ballads, I’m hardcore. I’m so hardcore, that unless I’m sonically reduced to a puddle of melted cherry Jello, bawling like a schoolgirl with the sheer, immortal splendor of a killer tune and lyrics a cut or two above the Moon-June-Youuuuuu variety, forget it. Ain’t happening. I can count most of those on the fingers of one hand. Well, along came Nick Cave and Grinderman with “The Palaces of Montezuma”, and the unforgettable lines “The spinal chord of JFK, wrapped in Marilyn Monroe’s negligé, I give to you”… and I was done for. Drip, drip, dripping cherry Jello, all over my floor. There are a gazillion songwriters who would give their eardrums for a chance to write something half so good, or their eyeteeth for lyrics half so original. (“A custard-colored super dream of Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen, I give to you…”)

Best Unexpected Happenings:
Sometimes, it can be good to push yourself above and beyond what you think you can do. Or else have someone around who can kick you hard enough to rise above your limitations! 2010 was the year I became a writer in earnest. Never in my sorry existence have I written so much, so varied and so broad as in 2010. More emails were sent, more blogs written, more rage was vented, more words were spilled out upon an unsuspecting world than ever before in my entire life. I managed to finish the first draft of “Quantum Demonology”, and I also managed to rewrite the first nine chapters from the bottom up. I still have a few miles to go and words to write before I arrive, but I can do this, I know. Whether the rest of the world agrees with me will remain to be seen.

Likewise in the year now dying, I dashed off an idiot email in response to a loaded question, and many, many emails, much venting on both sides, a sprouting, flourishing friendship and a telephone call later, I’m both flattered and privileged to be a part of “Retaliate”. Ray Van Horn of The Metal Minute– with whom I share not a few predilections, musically and otherwise – and I have plans to turn the world, the world of online magazines and the world of music writing slightly sideways on its axis, and so we will! Watch this space!

“Quantum Demonology” began taking over so much space on MoltenmetalMama, I had no choice but to give it its own blog. What a great thing I had hedged my bets beforehand and landed the title. What a great thing to write. What a bitch to revise! I wish I could say that should any of my four proofreaders show up on my doorstep, I shall be waiting with a pitchfork, four hand grenades, a Winchester, and a loaded AK-47, but in spite of all my griping, they’ve all four taught me more than I would ever know otherwise, and I am – willing or not – very grateful. And glad to have them. So long as no one mentions Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi ever, ever again. The horror!

I launched another blog – Scent Less Sensibilities – and without too much by way of promotion or even exposure, it’s taking off, giving me yet another kind of audience for my words, another focus for my writing, and best of all, an outlet for all my girlie sensibilities and the ability to connect with likeminded souls in the ether who share a love – and share the love. Ladies and gents, you know who you are. My life would not be nearly so complete without you, so fragrant or so much fun!

Best Albums of 2010:
This is where the metal hipsters will hunt me down and shoot me for my utter lack of imagination and sophistication. My sorrow to say it, ladies and gents, but there was not too much “new” to get newly enthused about. The albums that blew my socks off, the ones that had me playing air guitar in questionable attire, the ones I listened and listened to, the ones who likely will never leave my playlists, the ones I loved and love with a fury – all were issued by the pros who have delivered the deathless, timeless musical goods for decades. The rest in my view suffered from a distinct overdose of hype and expectations they couldn’t quite deliver. I’ll be getting back to those. The following albums are hated by my neighbors – for several good reasons!

Danzig: Deth Red Sabaoth
Glenn Danzig doesn’t need me as a press agent, but it’s not a state secret I’ve been raving about him for a while for many reasons, most of them dubious, some of them dangerous, and a few even libellous. For one thing, his discography gave me my novel and a very atrophied wallet. So when he released this, his first ‘proper’ studio album since 2004’s “Circle of Snakes”, I pestered the crap out of my CD pusher until it was finally available in Europe. It was worth the wait. Glenn Danzig returned to the blues-based metal he has done so much to invigorate, his voice as good and his songs as uncompromising, as strong and as solid as ever, and we were so thoroughly not disappointed. Tommy Victor showed his true colors at long last, Johnny Kelley proved yet again why he’s such a great drummer and I’m so grateful, it really is pathetic. Or I am. Bite me!

Grinderman: Grinderman 2
I’ve always had a thing for Nick Cave – simply because I have a thing for those songwriters who do their own thing and go their own way. But when I came across this one late and sleepless night on YouTube surfing the “You might also like” section, well, people, what little brains I have left promptly went splat all over my laptop. So embarrassing when that happens. It took me a long time to finally give in to this album, for no other reason than Nick Cave is a devious fox hell-bent on giving us a practical joke so well-crafted, we never even realize just how much we’ve been had. The energy level is through the roof, the insights into the middle-aged masculine mindset are staggering, and the lyrics are all Nick Cave shaking out of his sleeve what others toil years to achieve with only limited success.

Accept: Blood of the Nations:
Back to Ye Olde School Pros again. I wasn’t all that wild with Accept in the glory days in the Eighties, and I sorta wonder why, when they give us their all in this all-out glory of a comeback album. Love it, love it, love it.

Seventh Void: Heaven is Gone
Technically, this came out in the spring of 2009, so it is not, strictly speaking, a new album. But after a very respectable launch in the US and a tour with Type O Negative and a show with Danzig in 2009, Seventh Void finally found European distribution in 2010 and several of my friends silenced my incessant whining by buying me a CD. Despite sharing two members of Type O Negative and a love of sludge guitars, Seventh Void is more of an amped out, maxed out Alice in Chains on a combo of steroids and Demerol. Kenny Hickey’s vocals will not make Layne Staley rotate with envy in his cold and narrow grave, but who the hell cares? This is raw, immediate, Brooklyn sludge grunge, and it’s highly addictive.

Iron Maiden: The Final Frontier
I’m a sucker for Bruce Dickinson. I should know better, I know, I know, but I don’t care. Not even Henry Rollins’ brutally funny parody of Dickinson in his “Up For It” could ruin Iron Maiden, although he came close. If this album had been released by anyone else, it would have been declared a masterpiece. Alas, it was released by Iron Maiden, who then had to live up to their own reputation and back catalogue. It still blows me away, even as it means I can’t see or hear Bruce without hearing Rollins in my head ever again.

The Best Metal Autobiography, or Guiltiest Vicarious Reading Pleasure:
Ozzy Osbourne: I Am Ozzy
This book nearly caused a fistfight in my household over who got to read it first. Since I am by far the fastest reader, I won, hands down. And ghostwritten or no (it was, Ozzy is severely dyslexic), it was the most fun I ever had reading about someone else’s life. It could well be that apart from Keith Richards, not many rock stars have done so much, so wildly, and with such abandon as Ozzy. There can be only one Prince of Fucking Darkness. Any more would be far too much for the world to bear! I laughed, I cried, I had total hysterics.

The Bad:
Here’s what sucks in metal these days – the sad and sorry fact that so many hundreds of bands sound so…alike. It’s getting harder and harder to make any kind of distinction between the newer, younger bands, and although there are exceptions, I haven’t heard enough to blow my mind the way Ye Olde School pros can. For this and several other reasons, I’ll never understand bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan or Bullet For My Valentine. I. Just. Don’t. Get. ‘Em. Then again, I’m So Not Their Demographic. No. I’m a demographic all by myself. The demographic called…I’ve Heard Almost Everything, And If You’re Trying To Impress Me, Try Harder.

Another thing that totally, utterly, completely sucks: We lost a few of those who cast long, long shadows in the metal world. The Rev of Avenged Sevenfold, Paul Gray of Slipknot, Ronnie James Dio and one of my own Primeval Forces – Peter Steele of Type O Negative. Dio was a definite loss – few other performers had his staggering range or his charisma, and we were millions who were infinitely lessened by his passing.

But when your contemporaries die off, you start to freak a little. Peter Steele had been such a major influence and voice in my own life that when he died, I made a public spectacle of myself on a city bus during rush hour. Without Peter Steele, without some of the most beautiful songs ever written (and some of the most sarcastic), I would likely never have begun to write. Type O gave me the soundtrack of my life for the past seventeen years, and it’s been hard to find something half so good to fill the void he left. (But I did!) Meanwhile, the Type O discography has been on constant rotation on my iPod, but then again, it never really left. As the Egyptians used to say: So long as one person remembers you, you are immortal. Millions remember Peter Steele. We always will. Just as we always will play those haunting, evocative songs he wrote.

Bad was also…the weekend of Sweden Rock, June 9th. I wanted to go so badly, I nearly put my kid in a pawnshop. Bad was being completely unaware – such is the tunnel vision of a burgeoning writer in the midst of revision – that Seventh Void came to Copenhagen at one of my favorite music venues – and I missed them! Damn it! Bad was being forced to economize what music I really, truly, wanted to buy. Support your starving rock legends, or there won’t be any left, not even in L.A.

Bad was Ozzy Osbourne’s “Scream”. Apart from the title track, I was rather underwhelmed. Then again, I had a great excuse for hauling out all my vintage Sabbath, as if I needed one.

Bad was…Dimmu Borgir’s new album, “Ahabradabra”. Or should I say, not precisely bad, but not as great as I had hoped for. It sounded like Dimmu Borgir – an incredible collection of musicians otherwise – had fallen prey to what I could call “Satriani syndrome”. Virtuoso, no question, but where’s the soul? I couldn’t find it.

The Ugly:
The utter ubiquity of Lady Gaga. Puleeeze. That so much of the music industry has focused on hype over craft, and a lot of so-called bold-faced names now can’t deliver the goods behind the hype. That if you want a writeup in certain music publications, you have to pay for it. WTF??? That I’m almost a year older. That nothing is happening – nearly fast enough. That if it’s any consolation, I’m not getting any, either.

But the best thing about 2010, hands down, has been my readers. I could never have done this without you. And I do it all for you! And my vaunting ambition and oversized ego, too!

So – wherever you are on Planet Earth this New Year’s Eve – Happy New Year. Horns Up! May your 2011 be happy, lucky and make all your wishes come true!

I shall be here in front of my geriatric Mac, working on making my own a reality!

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From your least favorite heathen…I want to wish all my readers a very, merry Christmas, filled with food you shouldn’t have eaten, toys you shouldn’t have bought, ideas you shouldn’t have had and things you should never have said! 😉

And for all my iconoclastic love of tilting at windmills and headbanging horror, I’ll shock y’all senseless by posting one of MY favorite Christmas songs, from one of my ladies of all time…

There will be, as you know, more madness later!

One of my many horrible habits is reading a lot of…blogs. It’s one way to keep my vanity in perspective, especially when it comes to blogs about writing/getting published/getting yourself ‘out there’ as a writer – or a writer-wannabe.

You see, a good many of these blogs are exercises in humility. (Which could also be said of writing.) No matter what you think, you will never be …good enough, never mind good enough to publish. You will never get to the point where you have “arrived” as a writer, unless you started in the Seventies and have remained a best-selling author ever since.

I can handle that. I can handle being told that no matter what I think, I have not one original idea in that pathetically pea-sized cerebellum at the tip of my spinal cord. I can handle that I will unlikely ever become a published writer. I can even manage to overlook the appalling amount of crap that does get published, just to discourage the rest of us who are arrogant enough to believe in the stories we tell, rightly or wrongly.

But when I recently came across a blog discussing the perils of imagination, I blew a mental safety valve or two.

One writer – published, promoted, with a certain reputation – was accosted by a fan at a book convention. Before I incriminate myself any further, may I say I am in no position to pass judgment on this writer, never having read her, but the implications that lay hidden in that fan’s criticisms made me think…big time.

She was asked by this fan if she had ever been to a location mentioned in one of her stories. She told him no, that it was all her imagination and a bit of research. The fan, obviously a product of the ‘reality TV’ generation, then bashed her over the head with: “But how can I ever take you seriously as a writer again? I thought you had been there! I thought you were cool, and now, I can’t believe a word you write any longer!”

Which was around the time I blew that valve…

So imagination is a liability for a writer? WTF???????

Ahem. If we apply that criterion to some of the Late and Great, well, whaddaya know…there go…Jonathan Swift, John Milton, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe and entire collected works of Jules Verne, to name very, very few…erhmmm…how about all sci-fi ever written? Heinlein invented several alternate timelines in his stories, but do you think he ever actually experienced them?

Of course he did – except not literally. He had…imagination, one of the few things left in this cynical world which gives yours truly any hope for humanity’s future.

You could apply that to whichever field you choose: imagination gave us the benzene molecule, the general theory of relativity, quantum physics, ‘Das Kapital’, the Sistine Chapel and all of Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and the ‘Ring of the Nibelungen’. The ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. And. And. And.

Feel free to add to that list. It would make for a very, very long list. Once upon a time, for instance, all painted art was either representational and/or devotional – and often, both. It was until a Dutch painter in the late 15th century either suffered a bad case of ergot poisoning or a bad attack of imagination and created the triptych called ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’. The art world has never quite recovered.

Just as that writer had never been to a pivotal place in her story, except in her head, I have…never been to New York as an adult, never met the Devil in a café, and I have never set foot in the music venue in Copenhagen I used as the model for ‘Alcatraz’.

Someone I know quite well is writing a crime thriller about a female serial killer of a kind that makes Hannibal Lecter seem like a milquetoast wimp, and so far as I know, she is so soft-hearted, she has a hard time swatting flies and mosquitoes in summer.

It all comes back to…imagination. Imagination, where time and space are irrelevant, where anything can happen and often does, where our only limitations are in how far we dare to follow – a dream, a story, a possibility that may or may not happen.

If limitations were an issue, if he were confined to the world around him, Hieronymus Bosch would never have given us that triptych of phantasmagorias, Da Vinci would never have invented the helicopter or the tank or even painted the Madonna of the Rocks, and Dr. Fleming would never have discovered penicillin. If not for imagination, we would never have made it to the moon, or even Mars. If not for imagination, we might as well do ourselves in, because it’s only when we dare to dream, dare to exercise our imagination that we can dream a way out of whatever pickles we find ourselves in.

If that fan at that convention had dared to follow his own thought through, he should have realized that the conviction that made him believe the author had, in fact, been to the location of her story was a testament to her imagination. She made him believe – that it happened, that she was there, that, by extension, he was there, and what he really objected to was not a lack of reality, but that he had been misled – by his own imagination, and isn’t that the purpose of fiction?

I can imagine – that some day, in some future, I will be able to write something someone else will want to read. I can imagine that those words will have relevance and importance above and beyond whatever flies through my pea brain at the moment of writing it.

The one thing I can never, ever imagine – is being without imagination. Even reality is a construct – it’s all a question of perspective, and how can you have perspective if you have no imagination?

Image: Detail of Hieronymus Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights”

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First published 12/08/08

So, man – tell me all about it. Is it all it’s cracked up to be, parked on a cloud with your notebook and a pen? Does that get too boring, and if it does, do you hang out with your buddies, Janis, Jimi, Keith, Jon and that outrageous Texan called Dimebag? A word of advice, Jim – watch out for Lane. The man has issues. Issues, man, I’m telling you. Kurt, I think, you could relate to. If he has any head left by now, that is. And now, you have Peter, there, too. He couldn’t find you last time he looked, but maybe you found each other since then.

I think about the jam sessions you guys must have, and jealous is NOT the word. One day, Dionysus. But not any time soon. I have stuff to do, man. Loads of – stuff. Pestering the blogosphere is just one of them.

I wonder if you ever think about the havoc you wrought and the wrecks you left in your wake when you left. Dude, it hasn’t ever been quite the same since, and I was a baby when it happened. They don’t make gods quite like they used to, although you have a few contenders down here, you know, the guys who thought you were such an inspiration they riffled through your image wardrobe and stole what they could find; your outrage, your irony and your diabolical way with words.

Oh, yeah. Your ability to get up in front of a mike on a stage and just – slay ’em. Because you did. You and your bandmates took out all that fluffy-bunny love-peace-and-understanding navel lint and shot it – on stage and on albums – to the sky.

“Embrace the dark!” You nearly said. “Follow it to where it leads you!” And so we, they – hell, everybody! did, and some still do, and gotta say it, even without those Mayan prophecies, the world is still a darker – and more interesting place.

Because you showed us the way that music, the music that isn’t just another kind of background noise, but the vibrations that take you up and out and away from yourself, can transform you, can redeem you, can change your mind, your outlook and your soul – for ever. And nothing at all will ever be quite the same, be quite so innocent, quite so carefree again. And it’s cool, man, really. Not all of us were like you – born old souls, with the shadow of a god perched on his shoulder. Some of us are just plain garden-variety human, pathetic in our limitations, humble in our aspirations.

But we have music, and we have words and we have your words. At least, we have that.

Thanks, man, Appreciate it. You have no idea how much.

So happy fucking birthday, JIm Morrison. I look out on a dismal December sky, and for reasons I’m not sure I understand, I think of you and all those other long-gone guys and remember some lines from a poet you must know. He shared your predilection for divine madness, or diabolical inspiration. He would have dug you, I think. Or vice versa. And like you, he left this world too soon.

“WE are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.”

Eat cake. Have fun. Happy Birthday.

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